Restaurant Review: Le Bouchon

A longtime bistro continues to serve up traditional French fare to its legions of loyal fans

Things don’t change all that much at Le Bouchon, the perennially cozy French bistro on Cold Spring’s main drag. “We still don’t have a website and every time we try to upgrade the place, we get a blowback,” says Manager Michael Vierra. “Lots of people want it to stay the same way that its always been. It’s rustic, it’s got that cute little porch out front. People seem to really remember it — even if they only come back once or twice a year.”

Of course, customers are remembering both the Paris-chic ambience and the très traditional French food. “My boss is very old school and traditional,” says Vierra, about Pascal Graf, who opened the beloved eatery thirteen years ago. “He’s a charcutier; that’s what he learned to do when he was young, so he makes our boudin noir sausage and from time to time, he even makes the prosciutto.”

le bouchon cassoulet dish le bouchon interior

The cassoulet (left), a traditional white bean soup, is served in an oversized cast iron skillet. “It has four different kinds of pork in it, as well as duck,” says Manager Michael Vierra. “It’s quite nice”

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After a recent visit, I’m happy to report that Le Bouchon continues to do the classics very well. For starters, my friend and I shared the Moules Marinieres and the escargot. Both were out of this world. “Our staple here is the mussels,” says Vierra. “We have five different kinds, but the most popular is still the traditional. We use only Prince Edward Island mussels, and then it’s shallots, parsley, garlic, white wine, and butter — lots of butter.” The escargo is also buttery, accented with parsley and a hint of anise. It is served in a deep pewter dish — perfect for endlessly dipping the peasant style bread, which comes daily from Neri’s Bakery in Port Chester.

After a recent visit I’m happy to report that Le Bouchon continues to do the classics very well

I ordered the steak frites for my main course; a dish that has recently transformed. “We changed the steak to a flatiron steak. I’d say that 90 percent of our customers have received this very well. Some people miss hanger steak because they really like hanger steak, but flatiron looks better and you can slice it up nicely and we serve it with the shallot butter on it.” The dish is served with a gargantuan portion of their famous pomme frites, accompanied by the ever-popular garlic mayo. “We make the fries in house every single day,” says Vierra. “We double blanch them, soak them, and fry them twice. All this makes the coating super crispy.”

My friend opted for the wild Atlantic salmon, a big piece of fish that was Parmesan-encrusted and served with couscous, olive relish, and a homemade pesto sauce. “Its funny, some of those things don’t sound like they would necessarily go together,” says Vierra. “But when you have the dish you really get it.” I have to agree with the manager’s assessment — we both got it.

le bouchon manager michael vierra le bouchon mussels dish

“People seem to remember [Le Bouchon] – even if they come back once or twice a year,” says Manager Michael Vierra. Classic choices Le Bouchon serves five varieties of mussels, but the traditional Mussels Mariniere (right) remains the fan favorite

The desserts also tend to be traditional: crème brûlée (“We change the flavor each week,” says Vierra), chocolate mousse, and profiterols, among others. “Sometimes profiteroles are filled with cream, but ours are done with vanilla ice cream and hot, dark chocolate on the side to pour over them,” says Vierra.

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While the small restaurant — it seats about 35 people, plus another four at the tiny bar — is busy year-round, capacity expands during the warmer weather with the addition of the back garden. “I have seven tables back there, seating about 25 people,” says Vierra. “If I can get 20 people back there, I’ll reserve the whole backyard for them. I’ve even had a few small weddings there recently. The couples get married down by the water and then everyone comes up here.” The four tables on the front porch, seating two apiece, are also very popular. “Occasionally I can squeeze in a third person,” says Vierra, noting it is prime people-watching territory. “You can see everything weird that is happening on Main Street, plus you get a really great breeze. Even on my day off, I like to sit there and have a glass of Reisling.”

The eclectic clientele keeps things interesting. “It’s not uncommon to walk in and see a couple of guys who have just gone hiking, with their socks up to their knees, sitting on the front porch sharing some mussels and having a couple of beers. Then you come inside and there is a gentleman in a three-piece suit,” says Vierra. “It’s excellent.”

If you go…

Le Bouchon
Open daily, 12-9 p.m.
76 Main St., Cold Spring. 845-265-7676

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